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The Involvement of Low-Income African American Fathers in Their Children's Lives, and the Barriers They Face

      Objective.—To examine the involvement of fathers in the lives of low-income African American 8-year-old children, and the barriers they face.
      Methods.—The sample was comprised of 117 fathers or father figures of 8-year-olds in families participating in a longitudinal study of child development and maltreatment. The men were asked a series of open-ended questions pertaining to their involvement in the children's lives. Their responses were audiotaped and transcribed. Major themes and subthemes were identified and coded on NVIVO software.
      Results.—The men conveyed a strong sense of commitment to the children, identifying many issues reported by white and middle class men, such as providing support and affection and teaching values and skills. They raised the need to protect the children and help take care of them when sick, some adding that they did not feel confident doing so. They saw discipline as one of their roles, but described this as difficult for them. The men faced challenges of not having financial resources, not living with the child, and lacking knowledge or skills.
      Conclusions.—This group of fathers appears to be clearly committed to their children, despite significant challenges. There are a variety of ways that pediatricians can help facilitate their positive involvement in children's lives, and they may well contribute to the health and development of such high-risk children.

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